Monday, April 11, 2016

Get Your D.E.A.R. On!!

D.E.A.R. is an educational acronym that stands for Drop Everything and Read.  It’s much frothier than the dated S.S.R. – Silent Sustained Reading, which sounds a bit torturous to even the most avid reader.



April 12th is the official National D.E.A.R Day.  It is the birthday of the beloved author Beverly Cleary who created one of my all-time favorite childhood characters – Ramona Quimby.  On National D.E.A.R. Day, families are encouraged to read together while promoting books as an integral part of daily life.

So how will you be celebrating D.E.A.R. Day?  Fun activities to do with family, friends, or an impassioned book club include making bookmarks, reading favorite passages, and acting out scenes.  Character charades, anyone?  While April 12th is official D.E.A.R. day, every day is a great day to Drop Everything and Read!  So – drop those agonizing bills, take a break from Facebook, and get your read on!

For classroom activities and lessons corresponding to D.E.A.R., visit my store at TeachersPayTeachers:



Saturday, April 2, 2016

Celebrate National Poetry Month!

April is National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world.

Why should we devote an entire month to honor words written in verse?  Because poetry is the language of the soul.  When life drowns us with its dark moments, poetry throws us a raft – a verbal sanctuary of healing and beauty.

So I urge you to release your inner poet and succumb to the sensory language, rhythm, flavor, call and response of poetry.  Feel the human spirit and universality of life's shared stories in a stanza.  Read or write a poem this month.  Restore your spirit.  Restore your soul.





Ten Favorite Poems

  1. “Sick” – Shel Silverstein
  2. “Phenomenal Woman” – Maya Angelou
  3. “Annabel Lee” – Edgar Allan Poe
  4. “Oranges” – Gary Soto
  5. “The Road Not Taken” – Robert Frost
  6. Sonnet 130 – William Shakespeare
  7. “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” – Robert Herrick
  8. “The Kiss” – Sara Teasdale
  9. “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” – Dylan Thomas 
  10. Fragment 31 – Sappho




April Challenge:  Write a Cinquain

A cinquain is five line poem that follows this lyrical pattern:

1) a word for the title
2) two adjectives
3) three verbs
4) a phrase
5) the title again – or synonym


Example:

Chocolate
Dark or milk
Smooth, silky, sweet
Best thing ever
Yum! 


Eyes
Large, mysterious
Watching, rolling, blinking
Tell more than words
Soul-windows


Cinquain
Short, sweet
Five, simple steps
Maybe not so easy…
Voila!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Tween Fever Hits Coffee County Middle School!

I had a amazing time at Authors' Night at Coffee County Middle School in Manchester, TN.  The students were ebullient and full of questions about how to become a writer.  It was such an inspiration.  Thank you, Coffee County Middle School!



For more information on Kimberly Dana Author Events, please visit my website at http://kimberlydana.com/author_visits_19.html

Monday, March 14, 2016

Introducing the Teach & Reach Bundle

As an educator for over twenty years, it occurred to me one day while reflecting on my pedagogy (because this is what we teachers do in our free time!) that while I’m teaching, I’m not always reaching.  Or perhaps the opposite - I might be reviewing a skill or concept that I just assume my students understand - without ever actually having taught it.

Cogitating on my own instructional disconnect helped me to create the Teach & Reach Bundle.  Teach & Reach Bundles are an all-inclusive easy way to teach skills and concepts while reaching 100% student engagement and proficiency in no time.

Here’s how it works:
1) You TEACH the content with an easy-to-understand, kid-friendly, comprehensive instructional PowerPoint.
2) Students REACH proficiency as they review and practice the content with engaging, hands-on Task Cards that allow you to quickly assess for comprehension.

Teach & Reach Bundles are all-inclusive Common Core aligned lessons that are guaranteed to work.  Why?  As educators, we teach but not always reach.  Or, we may have students review the skill without ever actually teaching the concept.  But let’s face it…Who has the time to create daily PowerPoints and eye-catching task cards?  YOU do - with the all-inclusive Teach & Reach Bundle!



10 Benefits of the Teach & Reach Bundle:

Bundles are instructional time-friendly!  They can be done in one lesson.
Bundles are perfect for standout evaluations.  You’ll shine as your evaluator commends your use of materials, creativity, and content.
Bundles are minimal prep work – it’s all there!
Bundles are green – they require no copying.
Bundles are time savers that last for years!
Bundles work!  Research shows task cards are a hands-on, high yield strategy.
Bundles are super sub friendly…Keep them learning even when you’re not there!
Bundles have built in standardized test prep so no need to stress come spring!  You’re prepping for high stakes testing all year round.
Bundles make collaboration easy.  Share the wealth of your knowledge and resources with your colleagues the easy way.
Bundles are Easy for you – Engaging for them!!


Teach & Reach Bundles are featured on TeachersPayTeachers.  Add Teach & Reach Bundles to your teaching library today!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

How to Write a Thrilling Short Story

The Bennies of Short Story Writing

Just about everyone I know wants to be a novelist.  But let’s be honest.  Writing a book is a long and tedious process that can take years to finish.  To that end, almost every wannabe novelist I know never even comes close to finishing that elusive manuscript.  Even writing that first chapter can be a daunting task!

But writing a short story is an attainable endeavor with many benefits to the aspiring writer.  At 1,000 – 4,000 words, there is power in the short story.  It’s lean and mean, and can be read in one sitting.  The short story allows the writer the opportunity to explore the uncharted territory of a plot, character, or setting and make it pop!  In addition, one can experiment with other genres, develop their style, and use their short story to expand their platform as a marketing tool.  But most importantly, crafting a short story teaches the writer a vital skill: word economy.  To paraphrase my idol Stephen King, writing is “refined thinking.”  Nothing could be truer than when writing a short story, where the prose must be clean, compact, and concise.  If you are prone to a producing a bloated manuscript, trim the fat and turn it into a short story.  It’s quicker to write and if you’re lucky, quicker to sell.  


SWBS – Somebody Wanted But So…

Okay, so the benefits of writing a short story are clear, but the question still plagues most spinners of words.  How do I write a compelling story in a condensed timeframe, i.e. one sitting?  One word – conflict!  Conflict creates the need for story in the first place.  It is what adds tension and moves the story forward.  Without conflict, there is no story!

You need proof?  Think back in school when you first learned about story structure through Freytag’s Triangle.  Do you recall what’s on top?  Climax!  It is the decision-making, sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat moment of the conflict-ridden protagonist that determines the story’s outcome.
When I teach my middle school students about conflict, we use the following SWBS Statement:
Somebody ___________________________ Wanted ___________________________ But_______________________ So __________________________________.  (It is the “but” that is the heart of the conflict in the story).

Let’s look at a few examples of conflict in three classic short stories: “The Necklace,” “The Monkey’s Paw,” and “The Lottery,” paying particular attention to the “but” element.  Note: Major Spoiler Alerts!

“The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant
Somebody Madame Loisel wanted to appear rich at a party BUT lost the fake necklace she borrowed so she spent years paying it off.

“The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs
Somebody The White family wanted to wish for money on a cursed monkey’s paw BUT their son Herbert got killed so they unwisely wished him back to life.

“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
Somebody The Hutchinsons wanted to uphold the town’s traditions BUT Tessie won the lottery so she’s stoned to death.


The Thrilling Threesome 

Okay, conflict rules.  But how do I actually get started?  It’s literally as easy as 1-2-3.  Think of a thrilling threesome story prompt consisting of 1) character, 2) setting, and 3) a compelling conflict.
Here are ten short story prompts just begging to be penned into a story:


Ten Thrilling Threesome Short Story Prompts

1) A C.E.O. (character) gives a keynote address at a convention (setting) when overtaken by a panic attack (conflict).

2) A passenger (character) discovers an unattended carryon (conflict) when flying over the ocean (setting).

3) A book club hostess (character) receives a threatening anonymous note (conflict) at her own home (setting).

4) A disgruntled claustrophobe (character) finds himself locked in an elevator (conflict) at work overnight (setting).

5) A weary taxi driver (character) picks up a sinister stranger contemplating suicide (conflict) who wants to drive around town first (setting).

6) A couple (character) celebrates their anniversary at a cozy restaurant (setting) when a mysterious bouquet of flowers is brought to the table (conflict).

7) A daughter (character) cleans out her parents’ attic (setting) and discovers an urn of ashes (conflict).

8) A valedictorian (character) gets arrested for shoplifting (conflict) right before graduation (setting).

9) An unappreciated secretary (character) calls in sick and goes shopping (setting) where she runs into her boss’s wife with another man (conflict).

10) A first-day-on-the-job nanny (character) takes the children to the park (setting) where she loses the master key only to have a burglar find it (conflict).



Need Suspense?  Implement G.E.M.

Okay, now that you have a thrilling story starter, throw in a little suspense, which of course is the secret sauce to story telling.  It’s easy with G.E.M. – an acronym I created to front-load my students when teaching the craft of suspense writing.  G.E.M. stands for Gothicism, Expansion of Time, and Magic of Three.

GOTHICISM: All suspense stories can benefit from an element of the gothic genre, such as the supernatural; an eerie, mysterious setting; emotion over passion; or distinctive characters who are lonely, isolated, and/or oppressed.  Throw in a tyrannical villain, a vendetta, or an illicit love affair - you've got Goth gold!  Why Gothicism?  It explores the tragic themes of life and the darker side of human nature.  What’s more, readers are innately attracted to it.  No one wants to read about someone’s perfectly wonderful life.  It’s boring.  Remember – conflict rules!

EXPANDING TIME: Next, I introduce the art of expanding time using foreshadowing, flashback, and implementing "well, um ...maybe…let me see” dialogue."  Expanding time allows the writer to twist, turn, and tangle up the plot.  “Tease your audience,” I tell my students.  “Pile on the problems and trap your protagonist with a ticking clock.  Every second counts with suspense!”  There is an old writing adage that says to write slow scenes fast and fast scenes slow.  By delaying the big reveal, we build tension and punch up the plot but with one caveat.  Expanding time demands a fine-tuned craftiness when writing a short story because of course, your time is limited.  Remember, every word counts!  

MAGIC OF THREE: Finally, the Magic of Three comes into play.  The Magic of Three is a writer's trick where a series of three hints lead to a major discovery.  During the first hint, the protagonist detects something is amiss.  The second hint sparks a more intense reaction but nothing is discovered - yet.  And then - BANG!  The third hint leads to a discovery or revelation.  During the big reveal, I teach my students to use and manipulate red flags and phrases, such as Suddenly, Without warning, In a blink of an eye, Instantly, A moment later, Like a shot, To my shock, and To my horror.      

Adding suspense to your short story tantalizes your readers and breeds amazing results.  It’s what makes a perfectly adequate story “un-put-downable.”  So go ahead, and write a short story that explodes with tension!  1) Start with a thrilling threesome.  2) Punch up the plot with conflict.  3) And, sprinkle it with suspense.  Not only will you hone your craft and have your readers begging for more, it could morph into something bigger - like that elusive novel that no longer seems so impossibly unattainable.  Write on!


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Remember and Celebrating Harper Lee

As we remember and celebrate the deeply influential Harper Lee, I couldn't help but think back on the effect To Kill a Mockingbird had on me as an eighth grader.  Its message still resonates with readers today as it imparts a powerful lesson: empathy.

Scout learns how to empathize with people who are different than her, many of whom are symbolic mockingbirds shunned by society, including Walter Cunningham, Boo Radley, Mayella Ewell, and Tom Robinson.  As Atticus explains to Scout, "“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

I haven't taught To Kill a Mockingbird for several years, but I picked up a copy this weekend and started to read it.  I was of course transfixed and before I knew it, created several projects and activities for my future students.  It's apparent that to celebrate Harper Lee is to celebrate this powerful book.

So when was the last time you read To Kill a Mockingbird?  How well do you remember the book?    Take the quiz below to find out:

To Kill a Mockingbird Recall Quiz


1) What is Dill’s real name?
(A) Jack Harris    
(B) William Peter Harris
(C) Charles Baker Harris    
(D) Truman Harris

2) What does Jem use to try to deliver a message to Boo Radley?
(A) A fishing pole  
(B) A rock
(C) A paper airplane  
(D) A slingshot

3) What does Scout dress up as for the Halloween pageant?
(A) An eggplant  
(B) A ham
(C) A werewolf  
(D) A mouse

4) The story takes place in
(A) Atlanta, Georgia
(B) Maycomb, Alabama
(C) Nashville, Tennessee  
(D) Maycomb, Georgia

5) What is the name of the mad dog?
(A) Heck Tate
(B) Tom Johnson
(C) Tim Johnson  
(D) Dolphus Raymond

6) Tom Robinson's wife is named
(A) Hannah
(B) Mayella
(C) Maudie  
(D) Helen

7) During the trial, Atticus proves -
(A) Tom Robinson wasn’t even in town the night of Mayella’s alleged rape.  
(B) Mayella Ewell is a perpetual liar and needs psychologcial help.
(C) Tom Robinson is left-handed and therefore, guilty.
(D) Mayella Ewell was most likely beaten up by a left-handed man.

8) During the trial, what makes Mayella think Atticus is making fun of her?
(A) He shakes her hand.  
(B) He calls her Miss Mayella.
(C) He sneers when she tells her story.
(D) He laughs at what she’s wearing.

9) What does Atticus read to Scout the night of Bob Ewell’s attack?
(A) The Bible  
(B) The Gray Ghost
(C) The Maycomb Tribune  
(D) Robinson Crusoe

10) How does the Sheriff contend Bob Ewell died?
(A) Heart attack
(B) Boo Radley stabbed him.
(C) Jem Finch stabbed him.  
(D) He fell on his own knife.


Answers
1) C,  2) A,  3) B,  4) B,  5) C,  6) D,  7) D,  8) B,  9) B,  10) D





"[Courage] is when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what."  Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird


For more TKAM classroom activities and reading support materials, please visit my store at: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/To-Kill-a-Mockingbird-Unit-Bundle-1965242

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Advice by Lucy and CeCee: How to Snag a Hottie in Time for Valentine's Day

Okay, let's be honest.  No one wants to fly solo on the day that shall be nameless.  But the clock is a ticking.  So if you need a sweetie for the Valentine's Day Dance or just for general appearances (oops, we said it!) - here are some quick tips...  

Find a good candidate starting with someone who likes you for you. Other quality traits to look for in a guy are sweet, funny, and genuine. And let’s face it: cute doesn’t hurt, either. Stay away from boys who ego trip or only think about themselves.




When talking to him the first few times, you may be a little nervous. If so, ask him questions about himself or his classes. Here are some good questions to ask:


  • What's on your playlist?  
  • Do you have (name a teacher)? How is your project coming along?
  • Are you going to the football game on Friday?
  • Do you know what time the bell rings?


Try to be friends first and get to know him in a casual setting. This will make the going-out stuff less awkward.

If you want to ask a guy out, approach him when he’s alone—not when he’s hanging with “the guys” and absolutely not when he’s talking with another girl. If the coast is clear, pop a breath mint, take a deep breath, and go for it!

Do a little recon investigation, and find out what your dude is into. If he likes sports, talk about a local or state team; if he likes music, chat up tunes and bands.

Don’t talk too much about yourself. For most guys, this is a turnoff.

If he makes a joke, laugh. Guys like to think they belong on Comedy Central.

If you’re apt to blush when you gush, don’t fret. Most guys think this is cute.

Make signs that you like him and are interested by smiling, making eye contact, lightly touching his arm, and the like.

It sounds dorky, but practice talking to your crush in the mirror. When the time comes, you’ll be a silver-tongued smoothie.

Helpful Hint #1: Don’t be a psycho-stalker.  Guys are pretty simple to figure out. If they like you, you’ll know it. If they don’t, move on.

Helpful Hint #2: Don’t have a friend tell his friend to tell his friend that you like him. Do your love work yourself! It shows confidence!


 Happy Valentine's Day!!!
 Lucy & CeCee